I’m trying to find a job.
Something people do all the time.
It’s a hard slog. I mean, it’s not something many of us find enjoyable…right? It’s usually a necessity; often long, frustrating and drawn-out. Sometimes soul-destroying.
And that’s just for most people.
Throw in any form of mental illness and the process skyrockets into an ordeal that can sometimes simply seem too much.
Right now it feels like one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life…and I faced my own very real mortality head-on before I was thirty.
It has involved me hiding my head under the metaphorical covers. Sometimes under the real ones too. And crying – so much crying. Every new stage in the process has seen me forcing myself to sit there at my computer. Day after day. Until the tears stopped and I could move on. Until I could even contemplate what I had to do. Let alone even attempt it.
My CV took me at least six months in fits and starts to finish.
It took over 2 weeks of sitting at my computer for an hour each day before I could even look through the job sites in front of me.
Actually applying for a job – the stage I am currently at – has me paralysed. The thought of interviews, my arch-nemesis of job seeking, causes my mind to shut down. I can’t even contemplate the situation. Of being able to even appear like a functional adult. Of anyone actually wanting to employ me.
And on top of it all is the fear of it all being too much. What if I get a job and it’s the wrong fit, what if I push too far. Too quickly. Causing myself to fall backwards, lose all I have gained.
Whether my low self-esteem led to my long and damaging relationship with anxiety and depression or whether they fuelled the implosion of my already fragile esteem, I’m not sure. Either way, I am left doubting my ability to do anything, of having anything to offer; fearing rejection, doing nothing and getting nowhere.
Mental health and working:
Those of us with mental health issues struggle to stay in work and we struggle to find it.
Looking at research from Mind and Mental Health Matters (MHM) paints a sorry picture. According to Mind, over 30% of people with mild to moderate mental health issues are unemployed. This figure doubles when you take into account all mental health problems, with the MHM report showing 68% unemployment. Compare this to 52% for those with physical disabilities and 20% for those with no physical or mental difficulties.
Consider the economic consequences of this.
This costs money for businesses and the country even before you look at the individual. The Mental Health Foundation conducted a study in 2015 estimating the loss in gross value added to the UK economy from people with mental health issues (in terms of not being able to work, taking time off sick, reducing hours, loss of productivity etc.) at being around £25 billion.
Consider what it does to someone on a personal level.
Being in employment – well the right, supportive employment – can make a world of difference in terms of independence and confidence. It can provide a structure, purpose, financial stability and identity. Take that away and we can become isolated. Often find ourselves with a poorer quality of life and physical health. It can make those feelings of worthlessness and shame ten times worse.
Most of us with mental health problems want to work. We just need that little bit extra help and support with finding and staying in work. Something which often isn’t there.
Support for those already in work seems to be on the road to improvement. At least in appearance anyway. Employers seem to be waking up to the fact that supporting those with mental health issues benefits both parties. That they have as much to gain by supporting us as we do.
But what about those of us like me who are looking to head back into the workplace? The situation is unbelievably dire. There is support available for those brave and strong enough to face the UK benefits system but don’t get me started on how poorly this system treats those with mental health problems. How it lets us down time and time again. Often spitting people out at the end even worse than they were before they started the process.
Outside of this ‘support’, there is little available. You are pretty much on your own. And when your life is such that some days you consider it an achievement to have got out of bed, this is a pretty big ask.
Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services offer access to employment support advisors. Sometimes. In some places. Waiting lists can be long. Time with them short. My advisor is awesome, but my sessions are not enough. The timing of them – mostly taken place after my counselling finished – less than ideal. By the time we reached the nitty-gritty of actually looking for and applying for jobs, my counselling was over. At the time I needed it the most. Facing one of the biggest challenges of my recovery without the psychological support I so badly need.
But I keep on sitting here. Keep on pushing myself even though it hurts. Even though this is the closest to giving up I have felt in a long time. Because the alternative brings its own troubles. Because I want more from my life and this is how the next stage begins.
Am I alone in this? Have you had to deal with it too? Any job searching tips or resources for those with mental health issues? Some happy mental health success stories, please. Share some hope with this rather struggling soul.